The Schengen Agreement is another triumph of academic, idealistic and unworldly sentiment.
It comes from the same type of group-think that gave us high rise apartment blocks (that no one wants to live in), massive schools of mixed ability classes (which have failed on an epic scale) and that classic historical blunder the single currency with no single fiscal policy.
There is a genre of political idealists who seem to have no connection with the real world, no understanding of human nature, or indeed mankind at all. In the laboratory of political thought freedom of movement, or if you prefer open border policy, Schengen seems plausible. As does socialism, communism or fascism, but the gaping flaw in the theory is that such ideas leave out the most important aspect of all, human action. This flaw was pinpointed by Von Mises in his economic treatise of that very title. As a libertarian, Mises was an advocate of freedom of movement. He argued such freedom goes hand in glove with a dynamic liberal economy but this is not the issue in dispute. For a complete laissez-passer approach to the movement of people, there must be some caveats. The foundation must be property rights and a rule of law. This foundation has been completely ignored by the bureaucratic mandarins of the European Commission and totally unforeseen by its founding fathers.
Let us examine for a moment property rights, generally accepted in democracies as being the pillar of the state. We must go further than one’s own house, car and other belongings, in the nation-state, especially the modern welfare state, the taxpayer owns other properties by proxy.
The health service, schools, transport systems, social services. These are commonly owned, for better or worse. The Royal Parks in London are loved and respected throughout the civilised world, the British and tourists are welcome to enjoy them all the year around. They are paid for by the British taxpayer. Yet now they are being despoiled by people with no respect for property or basic hygiene, coming and going as they please. The newcomer has made no contribution to this commonly owned property. Under the concept of property rights, therefore, he cannot be entitled to benefit from them. Yet under Schengen, the protection of the rights of the indigenous population is abandoned. The newcomer has an entitlement to all that the host nation has under common ownership. Not unnaturally this causes resentment, where there is resentment there are friction and conflict.
Neither the founding fathers of Schengen and paradoxically libertarianism foresaw a fracture in the type of society the modern welfare industrialised democracies has produced.
A non-contributory social security system is now the bedrock of these economies. There is no discrimination therefore between those in genuine need or those who have made a welfare a lifestyle choice. Incidentally, this was never the original intention of the system. In the UK, the Beveridge Report of 1943 was the template for Western European social security and was both contributory and funded. Freedom of movement, therefore, produces a process of arbitrage between benefits systems. Not unnaturally those within the EU, or immigrants to the EU, will seek out the highest rewards from a concept not designed for anything other than a safety net for the unfortunate. Immigrants tumble across Easter European borders in a bid to reach the richer EU countries, bringing not only an alien culture but a barely disguised dislike of the host culture.
Another unforeseen problem was the remarkable liberality of criminal sentencing. Sixty years ago it would have been inconceivable that murderers and rapists could be freed under licence after just a few years. Today a twenty-one-year-old murderer could be freely travelling Europe in under ten years, no questions asked.
Why do academics or political idealists always assume what would obviously be absurd on an individual basis, could work on a European or even global basis?
Let me leave you with a thought to illustrate my point. Imagine your village, street or parish, take your pick, introduced a mini-Schengen Agreement. You leave for work in the morning, you no longer lock your door, nor do your neighbours. When you are at home there is no door bell, no need, your neighbours can walk right in. They can take a bath using your hot water, electricity and water it is a common resource but it comes on your bill. Fancy the idea? Of course, it is absurd, grotesque even, but that is what we have. The UK is not a member of Schengen, but that is irrelevant. The system for the British in reality is just leaving the key under the mat, the end result is the same, you don’t know who will be in your bath or kitchen when you get home from work.
A system more designed to destroy society is difficult to imagine.